Even moderate alcohol consumption by parents can negatively impact children: Study

A glass or two of wine in the evening may seem harmless or a fun way to unwind after a hard day’s work, but people might not realize that this can cause more harm to their children than they would like to believe. A recent study, led by researchers from the Institute for Alcohol Studies (IAS), the Alcohol and Families Alliance (AFA) and Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS), found that even moderate parental alcohol consumption could negatively impact children.

According to the study, moderate or low-level drinking (up to 14 units a week) embarrassed or worried children and disrupted their bedtime routines. Other findings showed that:

  • Children aged between 11 and 13 years likened alcohol to “sugar for adults” and believed that parents drank to “solve their problems.”
  • Those who had seen their parent(s) drunk were less likely to consider them as positive role models.
  • Tipsy or drunk parents were also associated with other negative impacts for children, including getting less attention, facing more arguments and unpredictable parental behavior.

Nearly 29 percent parents reported being intoxicated in front of their children, while 51 percent reported being tipsy. Almost 29 percent parents believed that it was acceptable to get drunk in front of their children, provided such instances were not regular. Nearly 15 percent children had asked their parents to drink less, and 16 percent parents had felt guilty or ashamed of their parenting due to their drinking patterns.

Marketing messages are glamorizing drinking

There has been a gradual shift in recent years from drinking in pubs to drinking at home, made possible by the cheap and easy availability of alcohol in supermarkets, convenience stores and specialist alcohol shops. Accordingly, children are being exposed to higher levels of parental drinking. Katherine Brown, chief executive of the IAS, attributed the higher exposure to “a barrage of marketing messages that glamorized drinking” and which had a strong association with sports and pop music. Moreover, the current culture is “remarkably accepting of alcohol,” said Viv Evans of the AFA.

Adult drinking patterns can also greatly influence children’s future drinking habit. Past research has found that adolescence is a critical period for the potential initiation and escalation of alcohol consumption. Parental drinking has a direct influence on adolescent drinking as well as an indirect influence due to adolescents’ views on parenting, particularly their level of exposure to supervisory and disciplinary measures.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 2.3 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 years (9.2 percent of the age group) were current alcohol users during the year, while nearly 1.2 million adolescents (4.9 percent) were past-month binge alcohol users. Underage alcohol use is related to a range of adverse consequences as well as fatalities ranging from car crashes, homicides and suicide. Further, it can lead to risky sexual behavior, violent incidents and unintentional injuries.

Dealing with alcohol addiction

Positive parenting is effective in protecting children from negative outcomes related to parental alcohol consumption and early exposure to alcohol.

Misuse of alcohol can be a serious teenage problem but early intervention can help.

Located in Delta, Utah, White River Academy is a therapeutic boarding school with state-of-the-art facilities and a safe environment for the treatment of alcoholism. We specialize in helping boys aged between 12 and 17 years. If you know a teen boy addicted to alcohol or any other substance, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know more about the best alcohol rehab centers in Utah.

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